An unforgettable road-trip stop at Saw's Soul Kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama. An unforgettable road-trip stop at Saw's Soul Kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama.
Life Travel A chef’s favourite places to eat in the American South Updated:

A chef’s favourite places to eat in the American South

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Every four months, chef Charlie Carrington changes the menu at his one-hatted restaurant in South Yarra, Victoria – not just swapping a couple of dishes, but changing the nationality of the whole lot, from Korean to Mexican, Peruvian to Thai.

The 25-year-old proprietor of Atlas Dining has just travelled through America’s south researching his next menu of southern and barbecue-inspired dishes.

He shares some of his favourite food discoveries with The New Daily readers.

Nashville, Tennessee

Arnold’s Country Kitchen

Meat and three vegetables might sound boring, but not here. Arnold’s is a walk-in, no reservations kind of place, so simple and cafeteria-style.

Slot in next to locals on their lunch breaks and you’ll feel right at home. The food is served canteen-style, and the menu changes daily. We ate roasted country ham that was second to none, and cabbage with dill.

What to order: Go for the meat and three veg, and have the pie for dessert.

Pinewood

With a tiny swimming pool and a shiny silver Airstream camper dishing out bar snacks, Pinewood is a trendy, hip establishment – part-pool bar, part-bowling alley, part-restaurant.

It opens from early to late, and the service is tops.

What to order: The non-alcoholic ginger beer is one of the top refreshments I’ve tasted.

Mas Tacos Por Favor

This little bar/restaurant number is tucked away in East Nashville and it was only because I felt like a margarita to beat the heat that I searched for a Mexican eatery.

It’s super snug, has a dive bar feel – there are no frills, just delicious Mexican food, fun service and a great atmosphere.

What to order: Tacos, naturally.

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All the things!! 👌🏼 by @allthenashthings

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New Orleans, Louisiana 

Saba

Saba is a stunning, upmarket Middle Eastern restaurant in New Orleans with a thoughtfully designed menu I couldn’t fault.

Even my girlfriend – who hasn’t eaten bread in years – ate the warm, fluffy pita and hasn’t stopped eating bread since. It was that good.

What to order:  Hummus: one of the best, simple hummus dishes I’ve tasted.

Muriel’s Jackson Square

I visited Muriel’s twice in one day. Lunch, then – after a failed dinner in New Orleans – dinner again.

At Muriel’s I felt safe, at home and looked after. The place is grounded on the family tradition of southern dining, serving contemporary Creole cuisine, and housed in a beautiful mid-1800s building.

It was hard for me to feel comfortable as an outsider in many eateries in New Orleans, but Muriel’s really impressed me with its understated charm and hospitality. Oh, and there’s a jazz brunch and resident ghost.

What to order: Fried green tomatoes with gulf shrimp.

Willie Mae’s

We queued for 45-minutes in the dense, humid heat of New Orleans, watching distant lightning strikes. But it was worth the wait: our eating experience was next level. The fried chicken was light and fluffy with crunch that was absolutely perfect.

The soft-drink portions and top-ups were a bit excessive, but on a stinking hot day we couldn’t have been more pleased to sit and scull what felt like three litres of sugary soda.

What to order: Fried chicken.

Birmingham, Alabama

Saw’s Soul Kitchen

If Birmingham doesn’t win you over you, Saw’s will. It was an unforgettable eating experience on our road trip stopover.

The pulled pork was impossibly tender and juicy, and the sides – grits, beans, fries, greens, slaw – have really inspired my menu at Atlas.

Saw’s was worth the trip, and the crazy-crowded interior as well as the welcoming service made the experience all the more memorable.

What to order: Pulled pork with grits, crisp onion and greens.

Driftwood, Texas

Salt Lick BBQ

To get to Salt Lick BBQ, we ventured outside the city limits of Austin for what was my favourite US barbecue experience by far.

The drive to Salt Lick was beautiful and unexpected – and honestly, the rural location exceeded my expectations. This place was like a grand Mornington Peninsula winery but dedicated to barbecue.

It was gorgeous, unique and every meat prepared was barbecued to perfection. I was instantly in a food coma, but it was worth it.

What to order: The mixed plate of meats and sides; you order meat by 100-gram increments.

Austin, Texas

Franklin’s BBQ

The mecca of barbecue in the southern states. The line for Franklin’s begins at 7am. The restaurant doesn’t open until 11am and remains open until sold out – which is within a three-hour window.

The four-hour wait in line is a big part of the experience and people really go heavy when they finally enter the venue and eat. Make sure to go on an empty stomach and see what this famous establishment is all about.

What to order: Five type of meat – brisket, turkey, ribs, pulled pork and sausage – ordered by the pound (450 grams).

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Headed back to Portland for @feastportland September 15th | Tickets on sale at 11am central | 9am PST …………………………………………………. Longtime Feast friend and honorary Portlander Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue, Austin) comes to Portland (with his world renowned brisket in his carry-on) to hook up with the local heroes of Portland’s burgeoning barbecue scene. Aaron will be joined by Matt Vicedomini (Matt’s BBQ, Portland) and Rodney Muirhead (Podnah’s Barbeque, Portland) for what’s sure to be every meat lover’s wildest and smokiest dream. Sides will be masterminded by Portland rising star Maya Lovelace (Yonder, Portland), our current queen of Southern-inspired food. https://www.feastportland.com/event/franklin-barbecue-and-friends/

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Atlas Dining, 133 Commercial Road, South Yarra, Victoria. (03) 9826 2621. The southern American menu will be offered until Christmas Eve 2019, $70 per person.